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Can you Overdose on Black Licorice?

Posted on November 20, 2017

Your Halloween candy stash (or your kids) may include candy corn, Snickers Bars, Kit Kats and black licorice.

The general rule is you want to limit candy consumption, but when it comes to licorice the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is adding to the warning.

There is such thing as too much black licorice.

Black licorice contains glycyrrhizin. That is the sweet flavoring sourced from the licorice root. Too much of a good thing has the potential to change your potassium levels, which can cause an irregular heartbeat, called arrhythmia, or weak muscles.

Symptoms may also include high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy and congestive heart failure, all of which could lead to hospitalization.

The FDA also warns you to avoid licorice if you have nerve problems because consuming licorice can aggravate hypertonia. Licorice may also mask as a type of estrogen so avoid it if you have breast, uterine, ovarian cancer, endometriosis or uterine fibroids.

Licorice has been used as a traditional folk medicine in the Mediterranean, southern and central Russia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The low growing shrub has powerful properties that can treat heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, cough, chronic gastritis, sore throat, Addison’s disease, Systemic lupus Erythematosus, liver disorders, malaria, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even hepatitis and viruses.

Sometimes sold as a dietary supplement, licorice root available in the U.S. can be found with glycyrrhizin removed.

According to an FDA recommendation, adults over the age of 40, should limit their black licorice consumption to under 2 ounces a day. Eating that amount for at least two weeks could land you in trouble with symptoms of arrhythmia.

No matter what your age, the FDA recommends keep portions of black licorice small. Besides irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, black licorice can interact with some prescription medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), and dietary supplements.

If you love black licorice, look for the anise-flavored variety to avoid the potassium-associated heart problems.